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Donald E. Boettcher




O1/04/1948, DES MOINES, IA

My father, SSG Donald E. Boettcher, was born April 1, 1924 in Davenport, Iowa. He was the youngest of three brothers. He attended Davenport Central High School and participated in track, football and wrestling. He enlisted in the Army Air Corps on 24 October 1942.

Donald Boettcher flew 52 missions in the European theater as a gunner in the perilous ball-turret position underneath B-24s that nicknames like “Black Swan” and “Lucky 7.” Once, a piece of steel cut his oxygen mask. Another time, his plane crashed on takeoff, resulting in the injuries that would later kill him, but he flew another 17 missions. “He was feisty,” Terry Boettcher explained. “Ball-turret gunners tended to be airmen with the attitude of high school wrestlers. He was really outgoing. He loved music. He loved to dance.”

Upon his return home Donald Boettcher moved to Des Moines, IA to be near the Veterans Hospital to get much needed care for horrible injuries sustained during his service in the war. At this period of time, he met my mother, got married and I was born. Just prior to Christmas 1947 he was admitted to the hospital. He died of kidney failure on January 4, 1948. My father was just short of 24 years old, my mother 20 and I was 6 months old.

My father was always bigger than life to me growing up. Terry Boettcher grew up always curious about his father.

Reading The Greatest Generation by Tom Brokaw, he learned about Ann Mix, a woman in Washington state who founded the American World War II Orphans Network. Ann Mix wondered if the other surviving children had the same feelings and experiences she had growing up a war orphan. As she talked with other surviving children, she discovered “this incredible sense of relief that you’re not alone anymore.”

When his father died, Terry Boettcher went to live with his maternal grandparents near Liberty Center. At about 3 years old he asked his grandmother where his father was. “And she started crying,” he remembers. “She said, ‘He’s in heaven.’ Being a little kid, I thought, ‘Well, that’s probably over by Davenport somewhere.’

I have dearly missed him growing up, but take great pride in being his son. May he rest in peace. “I have an awareness on an almost daily basis about my father.”

Your son, Terry Boettcher

Venosa by David Childers

There is a wheat field in Venosa Where the Bombers fly no more The tin can houses torn down Fifty years work done

There’s a farmer in Venosa Working in Italy’s sun In the place where as a young man My Father stood

And there is a calmness in Venosa That the flyers never knew A breeze from the peaceful sea In a foreign afternoon

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